Birthday Wish to all of you

“A ship in a harbor is safe, but it’s not what ships are built for.”

Today is my birthday. In the past 10 years of my life, I cannot believe the “outside of the harbor” choices I’ve made. Ironically enough, given the quote’s nautical nature, I do not consider “moving across an ocean” to be one of the most trans-formative choices.

I learned a new language (something one can do anywhere). I changed my career path (you can also do this where you are, and consider that applicable to all below). Together, my parents and I mended conflicts well before it was too late (today, they are two of my closest, most treasured relationships). I maintained a healthy physical lifestyle and weight, which wasn’t easy when I couldn’t walk. I published a book. I became “Aunt LaLa” to the Ayres Little Men and added a new family (my “Henry” carries their family name). I gave my hair to make wigs for children with cancer…four times. I faced, and continue to face, my fears (crippling stage fright and fear of heights). I watched marvelous sunrises in gratitude and walked through challenging sunsets in humility. On this day in 2011, I converted to Catholicism, which was the single-most authentic decision I have ever made.

Perhaps, some of the most trans-formative trips out of the harbor are those we simultaneously fear and welcome? Though we are afraid, we know we truly have to go – into the vast, seemingly-unending expanse. Someone calls and says, “I have the perfect job for you, but it’s in Lichtenstein” or someone writes you an email and begs, “Can you please take in this rescue dog?” or even “Marry me, my love?” Life changes in one … Augenblick.

One of mine happened on January 22, 2016 when I saw and heard a strong heartbeat from a machine in Bern, Switzerland. It took me about a second to process that was his (Christopher Henry) heartbeat. Sometimes, I guess, that second is all it takes to pick up the anchor and set sail. Fear be damned. Best decision I ever made, pulling up that anchor.

I know it’s tough and scary. Many times in the past 10 years, my ship has ventured out into the sea only to return battered and bruised. Heartbroken. Sea voyages can be treacherous and arduous. There are literal ups and downs that either propel you forward or crush you. It’s difficult to leave the comforts of a tranquil and serene harbor. Ah…but, that’s not what ships are built for.

I like to imagine wisdom from my four grandparents, as I push away from the harbor each time. They have four simple rules for each journey.

“Be bold, Lulabelle.”

                                                                 “Be authentic, Sweet Girl.”

                                    “Be brave, Granddotta!”

                             “Be peaceful, Princess Wawie.”

 You can do it, too.

Be bold. Be authentic. Be brave! Be peaceful.

We are all Saints – Wir sind alle Heiligen

I see that November is coming and I think, “Hang on, girl” because every year, both Allerheiligen (All Saints day) and Allerseelen (All Souls day) teach me.

https://lauraanneayres.com/2014/11/02/allerheiligen-allerseelen-all-saints-and-all-souls-day/

https://lauraanneayres.com/2014/03/10/allerseelen-by-strauss/

That’s, well, only a part of it all. Just two glimpses into how these days have molded me.

There was a lot of personal impact-laden death around me in 2009 and 2010. In 2009, all my “you’re a foreigner” trouble started in Switzerland, I was beaten by the man I thought I’d marry, and two men that were touchstones for me unexpectedly died (less than 2 months apart). Happy New Year in 2010, as my parents divorced shortly after lawyers/judges returned from ski vacations, my family split in half, Granddaddy died, L’s mother died, and Annie overdosed. It was a lot.

So, these two days mean a great deal for me every year. I quietly reflect on November 1st and 2nd. I remember all those I’ve lost – some are actually still living and others are dead. All Saints and All Souls days are contemplative for me. Not dark, just contemplative.

For the past four years of my life, I have spent Allerheiligen at Bibiana’s grave, and this year was no exception. I learned a profoundly important lesson this year.

A man was adorning the grave beside Bibiana’s. He had tears falling from his eyes onto the grave.

I literally cannot handle it when someone is crying. So, I said, “es macht die Erde gesunder” and I put a hand on his shoulder. (It makes the soil/earth healthier.)

When I put my hand on his shoulder, he flinched. I am not sure he even realized someone was there. I pulled my hand away quickly (sometimes, I forget that I am in Switzerland, where you are not supposed to have “so much sunshine all the time”) and he…pulled it back. He squeezed my hand and said, “Stimmt.” (True that!)

After he left, I put one of the candles I had for Bibiana (I had 5, plus the Easter candle I made at church last Easter, I had a rather Texas amount to begin with…) on the grave of his loved one. He came quickly back, took one of the flowers he’d used for his loved one, and put it on Bibiana’s grave!

We are living Saints. All of us. We are all connected.

Written from a train from Luzern to Bern, 01.11.2015

Forgiveness – What if I don’t Want to?

The thing I truly dislike about being a practicing Christian (i.e. I keep practicing hoping I’ll nail it someday) is the necessity of forgiveness of others.

My disdain of forgiveness exists on two levels. First, I feel it’s really not my job to forgive someone who has hurt me because I feel that is something for which the person needs to ask him or herself. Or God. Just not me. Who the hell am I? Second, I when I tell someone “I forgive you,” I always want to add a little * that says:

*this forgiveness only valid for one-time use

Unfortunately, forgiveness doesn’t work that way, does it? We don’t get disclaimers and we don’t get to pass the buck. I’ve been forgiven many times and I was not forgiven with disclaimers or a lack of eye contact. I was forgiven personally, unconditionally, and fully.

But, what if I don’t want to forgive this?

This morning, when I woke up, it was my first thought. Someone did something horrible to me a few days ago and I agreed to meet him tonight to listen to what he wants to say. He feels awful and he knows he made a massive mistake. I understand that, but I am hurting. So, my question has followed me all day, and what if I want this to be the first time I look someone in the face and say, “I will never forgive you”? I would have every reason to do so. What will stop me?

Because I don’t want to just say I’m Christian. Anyone can say those words. Me? I want to do it, not just say it. I aim to make my final words as simple as, “Thank you for that crazy life, and I hope I made You proud.” There is nothing more important to me than replacing a tiny fraction of the darkness in this world with my sunshine.

And the people that hurt us? They do it because they have that darkness inside of them. I don’t hurt people all that often. Why? Because I have a ridiculously large surplus of sunshine. And compassion. Huge reserves of both. Makes me remember that fabulous line from Talladega Nights, “I piss excellence.” Me? I don’t like that word, but I certain weewee sunshine and compassion. You bet.

So, I am certain I will look him in the eyes tonight and share some of that sunshine and compassion with him.

I think Mark Twain said it beautifully…  forgiveness-mark-twain-quote

The Rollercoaster’s Lesson

Ups and downs. Tension and release. We rise, we fall…only to rise again.

How do we process the curve balls? When it was time to say “goodbye” to Wyatt Walter on Sunday, he burst into tears. What do I say when the blue eyes of one of my favorite things on this planet fill with tears that are my doing? We won’t see each other for one year, I can’t change it. What do I do to make it better? He wears a cross that says “WYATT LALA,” but I know it’s not enough for him. He needs hugs. (So do I.)

IMG_4358

How do we process the high-as-a-kite moments? I received keys today. They unlock a future – a life – a chance for a career, love, happiness. How do I take it in stride when there are a million Nadia Comāneci-butterflies doing somersaults in my stomach? I’m feeling excited about my future in a way that feels almost selfish. So many of my friends and family members are struggling and I am feeling only excited about what comes next. Shall I instead say “cautiously optimistic”?

That’s step two for me. How do I ride the rollercoaster, this time, without feeling broadsided by the downs? In this current apartment and this current life (both of which I will be shedding tomorrow), I have learned how to deal with despair. It was the hardest lesson.

I lost both of my “God”fathers here. I lost Granddaddy. I lost L and fled to Luzern for 2 weeks. I lost him again. I lost him a third time. I lost Hope. I lost it again. I lost it again (7 times, in total). I met the Csendes family. I said goodbye to them. I welcomed them. I said goodbye to them again. Ups and downs. Over and over again.

I learned a hard, but valuable, lesson – my Faith is stronger than my Hope. Faith is in the air. If I am breathing? (and, according to the paramedics, I wasn’t at one point in this apartment)…Faith is refilling me with what I need to take another breath, another step, another journey.

There will be a day when the blue-eyed, 8-year-old is visiting his Aunt LaLa (technically, he calls me “Wala” because it combines both of our names) in Switzerland. There will be a day when what seems “full of wonder” is a bit clouded by the harsh and not-so-picturesque reality of law school. I’ll find a way to take the Rollercoaster’s exciting journey the way this guy does…That’sLifebythePro

Unrealistic Expectations – I’m talking to all of us – the Liberals

The Pope is Catholic. He is going to be anti-abortion. Posting on FB, “I don’t know why he doesn’t just get with the times” or “Who does he think he is…God?” is ridiculous. He’s the Pope.

When someone identifies as, “I’m conservative in all ways,” chances are good that guy or gal is going to be vehemently anti- uh…- many things. I’m always glad to hear that because, well, then I know. I’m not disgusted or pissed off or anything. I just know. That’s how he/she sees him/herself. Period.

What shocks me is why we, I’m talking to the liberals, expect something different? For example, the Pope. We expect the Pope to be a flaming liberal overnight because…? I think he’s fairly transparent, right? Though he is, in my opinion, following the steps of Christ more than I’ve seen in any other Pope, is he going to be hosting a Global Dance Party in Support of Gay Adoption soon? Probably not. Am I expecting him to? Absolutely not. Though, I would LOVE that party. Moving on…

When did we forget “liberal” implies an “open mind” and why do we think we need to change someone who is being transparent? It’s not the transparent ones that need to change – it’s the hypocrites. The liars. These are the people that need a good whack with the truth ruler. With the transparent folks, you know the deal: you take the deal or you don’t. Me? I don’t take it.

Lately, the liberals are becoming like the conservatives and I think it’s due in large part to the 2-party system. We are set up  the moment we are indoctrinated into the “Republicans and Democrats” system to believe there is our way and the other team’s way. Because I’m liberal, it means my beliefs are always right. Wrong. Plenty of my conservative friends and family members have legitimate reasons (I’m not talking about the bats*** crazy ones) for defending certain extreme (in my opinion) beliefs. That’s fine by me because their beliefs have nothing to do with me, even when they affect me as a woman. There are plenty of people out there, in 2015, who believe I am no longer a “delicate flower” that needs to give my little woman’s brain a break from 1-3PM. That’s why my FB friends list looks still looks like a unicorn whizzed rainbows all over it.

Go with me here and this is only my experience (please don’t write me telling me that one time you knew a Swiss guy who voted only SVP).

Switzerland has roughly 28 parties. 28. There is a PARTY for Pirate Protection,  two Communist PARTIES, and a PARTY that wants to protect the little four-legged folks. The Swiss don’t have this American/British “there is only one way and it’s my way” due in large part to the spectrum. Growing up Swiss means you don’t have black and white. You have 28 versions of grey and every canton has an additional version of those 28 versions. The politicians, religious leaders, etc. are transparent and the Swiss find this normal and not worthy of their ire, even when they vehemently disagree with the viewpoint. If the Swiss don’t like the XYZ party’s initiative, they simply…don’t vote for them. In general, they don’t raise holy hell, they don’t post 80 things on FB (maybe 4 is the most I’ve seen from one guy on Twitter). They simply use their feet to show their disagreement.

In this privileged First World in which we live, it’s too bad. See, we set ourselves up when we limit our beliefs to this party (conservative) or that party (liberal). We will travel one road and anyone on another road is “wrong” or “infringing on my beliefs.” Is that true at times? Yes. What’s to do? Not sure…start a new road? Join someone else’s road? Don’t be Catholic. Don’t be Episcopal or don’t live in Dallas county. Don’t be FB friends with Joe the Plumber. Or…there are lots of options.

Think I’m being dismissive? Au contraire mon frère.

“Dallas” didn’t work for me. I didn’t need to change Dallas nor did I need Dallas to “evolve” to meet my expectations (think of how arrogant that sounds?). No, I needed to find a place that worked. For me. I moved across an ocean to find a place that felt better (most of the time) and where I fit a bit better (most of the time). It was not easy and I wish Dallas had been more in line with what I needed, who I was, etc. But, it wasn’t.

Dallas was transparent and I wasn’t buying it. So, I went somewhere else. And…God…it was the best (/hardest) path I’ve ever been on.

Being real, even when it’s hard – UPDATE

“My life is amazing now. Please, do not come back into my life with drama and chaos again.”

More or less, that’s what I said 12 days ago. Actually, I think it is verbatim what I said.

So, why did Drama run his happy ass to my door, while Chaos sprayed “Liar Spray” all up in my face on a lovely Saturday afternoon in Switzerland? Hmm? Why?

Because it had to be.

It was in line with what was happening the entire time. I just didn’t know.

Lies, drama, and chaos were the bedrock of our relationship the entire time because he was lying about something as fundamental as “I always want to do the right thing.” All this deceit is painful to recall; but, now, because of his email last Monday (I still cannot believe he emailed me), I know the truth. Endlich. (And although, I didn’t lie or create chaos, my life situation sure as hell was dramatic. He is not alone in that responsibility.)

What I’ve learned in the past 7 days hasn’t been easy, and there is a lot more to learn. However, a few lessons include:

  • A man that is uninterested in or allergic to acts of basic human kindness is not a man that I need to invite into my heart.
  • People in my life are in my life because they are good people. If they don’t like a man I am seeing? I need to pay attention instead of making excuses (again).
  • I am naïve and I am gullible. Because I am 39, and not 9, that is probably not something that I can change (do I want to?). Thus, I need to refer to numbers 1 & 2 if I ever decide to date again (big “if”).
  • If I ask someone “not to come into my life with drama and chaos again,” I already know what will happen. People aren’t constantly confronted with those things in their relationships, when they are with healthy people.

The comments, particularly the nicknames about him (I particularly liked “utter turd of a creature” PS- I love the way Brits use “turd”), did entertain me, mainly because I’ve never seen him that way! Until I read his words of truth. Read them…in an email. (So, “utter turd” does somewhat to fit.)

But, honestly? There’s no need to demonize or vilify him. It just gives him power and strength he doesn’t deserve (and never demonstrated).

I don’t think he likes himself all that much. That’s sad, I think we can all agree. My prayer is that he will stop being the “bad guy” and be the “super Catholic” he purports to be. He should strive to become the hero of his own story.

Like I am. Because I…well…I’m gonna kick the ass of my own life and give myself one hell of a great story.

Stay tuned (pun intended).

(Sorry I don’t publish all the comments, but I don’t normally publish comments unless I know the person in my daily life, as y’all know. But, thanks for all your sweet messages and comments.)

Nutjobs, nutjobs everywhere

Everyone had an gut reaction to the news about Charlie Hebdo. I thought it was a mistake. It was the same feeling I had when I heard of the plane flying into the World Trade Center. It’s the same feeling I have when I watch Terms of Endearment and Emma dies. “That didn’t really happen, someone made a mistake. Rewind it and listen again.”

Because I live in a parallel universe – things like that don’t actually happen.

These things are horrific (yes, even Emma’s death). Two of them involve evil. My faith in humanity and the goodness of every person makes evil a terrifying topic that I still, to this day, cannot believe is real. My faith is strong and, I promise you, tolerant.

And, I am sick and tired of listening to people tear religion apart. Immediately after the attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo,  FB posts purported the trite and cliche statement, “I dislike religion.” So, on Saturday, I posted “I think people who say they dislike religion are silly.” It wasn’t the adjective I wanted to use. I wanted to say “ignorant.” Just as you are entitled to tell me you have a blanket dislike of religion, I am entitled to say your words are ignorant. As I asked someone, “how much do you know about Zoroastrianism, for example?” Attended two Bahai ceremonies and just didn’t like the buffet selections? That makes sense.

The same night of this FB exchange, I had dinner with a friend and her husband, who is Pakistani and comes from a Muslim household. Though he is now an atheist, he said, “who am I to say religion is bad or stupid? If someone has cancer and his faith helps him to get out of bed and keep going every day, well, that’s a good thing.” I thought that was one of the most profound things I’ve heard in a discussion about faith. A Catholic Buddhist and a former Muslim now atheist – totally different faith structures, parallel thinking.

And there is parallel thinking with all the terrorists groups. It’s not religion that unites them, it’s a desire, almost a thirst, to commit acts of terrorism. Sure, there are excuses about the men and women who join these terrorist organizations having felt like lepers in their pre-terrorist lives – cast out of society. They felt they didn’t belong and then someone came along and said, “you can have a family with us.” Oh, poor little terrorists didn’t get picked to play Four Square in 4th grade, so let’s kidnap, rape, murder, and humiliate others. How sad. This is age-old, mafioso stuff, but, again, it’s not religion that unites them. It’s a desire to destroy and to kill to attain power – that’s not “religious.” That’s a sickness in the soul.

What is the answer to combat the terrorist groups? Like many, the temptation to limit free speech seems plausible to me, until we remember that free speech really oughten have limitations because then it’s not exactly “free,” is it? Bit like a free ticket to the movies that you can only use to see bile-inducing Twilight movies. Also using violence to combat violence didn’t seem to work out well in most cases (“An eye for an eye will make the world go blind” Gandhi’s pointed that out a bit more eloquently). The truly important thing to remember about eradicating terrorism is…that we cannot.

There will always be nutjobs. Some of them are violent with weapons and some of them are violent with words. These people will always find each other (just look at Congress). I’ve found, there is one solution to this problem that will work. It will work if your life is in danger, it will work if someone you love is killed. It will work when your country is attacked, it will work when your country is attacking.

It goes like this:

Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease;
I shall profess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

It is the hidden verse of Amazing Grace. It says that we have done our best, we were committed to sucking the marrow out of life, and we used our lives to spread principles like tolerance, kindness, and acceptance. We take our lives not for granted, but for the gift that they were at birth and can be until we die. And there are those unique cases, like those who worked in the office at Charlie Hebdo in Paris, whose lives are gifts even after they die.

Amazing Grace – how sweet the sound.